Newspaper logo  
Local Stories, Events

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Books, Films, Arts & Education

05.18 Chris Hedges - The American Empire Will Collapse Within a Decade, Two at Most [54:06 audioVery credible]

05.17 Jared Diamond: There’s a 49 Percent Chance the World As We Know It Will End by 2050

05.14 Literature provides shelter. That's why we need it [Wise reading builds better, more capable and imaginative brains—unwise or less reading does not]


Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

05.22 Over 1,351 Climate Strikes in 110 Countries Planned for Friday as Global Revolt Escalates

05.22 Much shorter working weeks needed to tackle climate crisis – study [Less supervised internet-based work from home would be more likely]

05.22 Internal emails reveal how the chemical lobby fights regulation [Political lobbying including unlimited bribes is terribly effective, especially when politicians are immoral]

05.22 Is modern life poisoning me? I took the tests to find out

05.19 The heat is on over the climate crisis. Only radical measures will work

05.18 The selfish case for saving bees: it’s how to save ourselves

05.17 Revealed: air pollution may be damaging 'every organ in the body’

05.16 Cambridge scientists create world’s first living organism with fully redesigned DNA

05.16 Electric 'flying taxi' prototype unveiled by German start-up

05.16 ‘Extraordinary thinning’ of ice sheets revealed deep inside Antarctica

05.15 Plastic pollution harms bacteria that produce 10 per cent of oxygen we breathe, study reveals [We keep learning more about ways we're killing life faster and faster]

05.13 The Guardian view on a Green New Deal: we need it now [Inaction would bring faster hardship and death]

05.13 Los Angeles Fire Season Is Beginning Again. And It Will Never End.

05.13 Climate change: UN chief Guterres decries 'fading' global efforts

05.11 Bill McKibben and Elizabeth Kolbert on the U.N. Extinction Report

05.11 London to have world-first hydrogen-powered doubledecker buses [How avoiding immoral Capitalism wins!]

05.11 Nearly all countries agree to stem flow of plastic waste into poor nations [How avoiding immoral Capitalism wins!]

News Media Matters

05.22 What if we covered the climate crisis like we did the start of World War II?

05.22 Climate crisis more politically polarizing than abortion for US voters, study finds [Faux News spreads lies and distortion to millions in America, and mainstream news sources avoid annoying corporate advertisers—also programmed by Faux]

05.14 US Press Reaches All-Time Low on Venezuela Coverage

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

05.22 This Is How Republics Die

05.22 'It's a Sure Winner—Except for the Profiteers': 200+ Economists Send Letter to Congress Endorsing Medicare for All

05.21 Revolting Against Speaker's Inaction, Pelosi's Own Leadership Team Demands Trump Impeachment Proceedings

05.21 The Trump economy is hurting most Americans. Statistics won't fool voters

05.21 Trump stops ex-White House counsel Don McGahn testifying to Congress [What's Baby Trump hiding?]

05.21 Can It Happen Here? [What can we do with adults who act-out emotionally and physically like children]

05.21 E.P.A. Plans to Get Thousands of Deaths Off the Books by Changing Its Math [Wrong way Trump is at it again]

05.20 The big corporate shift on climate change

05.20 Pete Buttigieg Calls for Carbon Capture and Tax—Climate Proposals Backed by the Fossil Fuel Industry

05.20 'Unfathomable Evil Recognizing Unfathomable Evil': Trump's Possible Pardons of War Criminals Provoke Outrage

05.20 Amid Wave of Anti-Choice Laws Across US, Warren Introduces Plan to Protect Abortion Rights

Justice Matters

05.22 Outrage as Texas Senate Passes 'Unconstitutional' Bill That Would Hit Pipeline Protestors With Up to 10 Years in Prison

05.21 Rich white men rule America. How much longer will we tolerate that?

High Crimes

05.21 Palestinians need a state, not a 'business plan' [They have slow-motion genocide now...]

05.17 It’s Time to Stop Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

Economics & Corrupt Capitalism

05.22 Capitalism used to promise a better future. Can it still do that?

International & Futurism

05.22 Far-right Facebook groups 'spreading hate to millions in Europe'

05.21 Trump's China trade war risks damaging US economy, says OECD [Does Baby Trump know what he's doing?]

05.20 What longer paternity leave did for men in Spain

05.20 The rise of social supermarkets: 'It's not about selling cheap food, but building strong communities'

05.20 European elections: how the six biggest countries will vote

We are a non-profit Internet-only newspaper publication founded in 1973. Your donation is essential to our survival.

You can also mail a check to:
Baltimore News Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 42581
Baltimore, MD 21284-2581
This site Web
  The Embarrassing Republican Friends of Planetary Defense
Newspaper logo


The Embarrassing Republican Friends of Planetary Defense

The obvious problem with the two Republican friends of planetary defense is that they are far from paragons of rational scientism.
Is defending the Earth from catastrophic collisions with enormous chunk of cosmic debris an American responsibility? That’s the question The New York Times reporter Warren E. Leary has William Ailor asking at the March 5-8, 2007 Planetary Defense Conference at Georgetown University: “Should one nation, the United States,” queries conference chair Ailor, “be responsible for the entire planet?” The short answer to his question is “yes.” The United States is responsible for protecting the entire planet by detecting and deflecting any killer asteroids or comets heading toward Earth.

In principle, of course, other countries with serious space programs—Russia, China, Japan and the 17 member states that cooperate through the European Space Agency—should all be willing to shoulder a proportionate share of the costs of defending the planet from the statistically non-trivial threat of enormous, fast-moving space debris. Moreover the other 180-plus countries that lack serious space programs also should chip in their share of the costs of protecting our common and only home. However, such a collective assumption of responsibility is precisely what scholars of international politics would not predict. Instead they would predict rational rather than principled action. What that means is that while several of the space powers might be willing to shoulder minor parts of the burden, they would join every other country on the planet in allowing the United States to assume most of the responsibility.

The problem with achieving any proportionate cost sharing in this is that defense against catastrophic space debris strikes is an exceedingly pure public good. That’s because the devastation caused by a kilometer-long asteroid smacking the Earth would be planet-wide, and as a consequence detecting and deflecting it would benefit everyone else on the planet just as much as it would Americans. What that means is that there is no way to exclude any country from benefiting from American efforts to provide this public good, even if only for the United States. The result is an open invitation to ‘free ride.”

That the rational pursuit of individual self-interest or national interest undermines cooperation to provide public goods is one of the more frequent observations made by social scientists. That helps to explain why the United States assumed a disproportionately high share of the total military spending among NATO member states during the Cold War and why the British Navy undertook the heavy lifting to suppress the Atlantic slave trade in the 19th century. So although it inevitably results in the sort of complaint expressed in William Ailor’s question, the weak often exploit the strong in international efforts to provide public goods.

Scientific and statistical illiteracy that prevents most Americans from understanding the nature of the threat from cosmic debris.
Politics of a different sort was obviously on the minds of many of the presenters at the 2007 Planetary Defense Conference. Comments made during the panel discussion on the last day of the conference reveal frustration about persuading ordinary Americans that the threat is serious and persuading American politicians that more money should be spent on planetary defense. Serious public discussions of doomsday asteroids inevitably encounter giggles that are the result of Hollywood science fiction. Who doesn’t want to forget the execrable 1998 film Armageddon? More important than popular culture is the sort of scientific and statistical illiteracy that prevents most Americans from understanding the nature of the threat. According to Michigan State University political scientist Jon Miller, fewer than 30 percent of American adults can read and understand the science section of The New York Times.

The small number of space science specialists involved in planetary defense ought to be especially alarmed by their friends among elected officials.
The small number of space science specialists involved in planetary defense ought to be especially alarmed by their friends among elected officials. Only two were mentioned by the panelists at the 2007 Planetary Defense Conference: California Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher and Kansas Republican Senator Sam Brownback. Rohrabacher has supported Federal funding for planetary defense, probably because it is a backdoor to develop space war technology. Brownback has merely suggested holding hearings on planetary defense. The obvious problem with both of these Republican friends of planetary defense is that they are far from paragons of rational scientism. Rohrabacher has expressed skepticism about the anthropocentric causes of current climate change and even suggested that dinosaur flatulence might have played a role in previous warming episodes. Brownback is on record supporting theistic challenges to Darwinian evolution.

The planetary defense crowd desperately needs some new, less embarrassing friends on Capitol Hill.

John Hickman is associate professor of comparative politics at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. His published work on electoral politics, media, and international affairs has appeared in Asian Perspective, American Politics Research, Comparative State Politics, Contemporary South Asia, Contemporary Strategy, Current Politics and Economics of Asia, East European Quarterly, Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, Jouvert, Legislative Studies Quarterly, Political Science, Review of Religious Research, Women & Politics, and Yamanashigakuin Law Review. He may be reached at


Copyright © 2007 The Baltimore Chronicle. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on March 15, 2007.

Public Service Ads: